The original text was written in Japanese and published in FASHIONSNAP.COM on January 18, 2020. This post is translated from the original article.
CHINA’S RAPID RECOVERY
In our previous post on April 2020, “Fashion and Pandemics – For Living in a World That Never Ends”, we mentioned that while international global conglomerate capital would be strongly negatively affected in the short term by the coronavirus pandemic, but on the other hand, it would also be global conglomerate capital that would recover with a major turnaround, and that industry restructuring and M&A may proceed. It has been almost a year since the start of the pandemic, and the fashion world is showing the kind of movement that was expected.
Global companies have suffered massive sales losses, but are in the process of regaining lost sales across the globe at an intense pace from their bases in Asia. Many readers may remember the Louis Vuitton Men’s 2021 Spring-Summer presentation held in Shanghai, China, where there was a quick recovery from the effects of the coronavirus. This physical show was presented at a time when many brands were struggling to cope with digital presentations, this controversial and realistic show was one of the biggest of the 21SS season and determined what many perceived to be the dominance of the Chinese market. The various news about the Louis Vuitton Men’s Collection show were also symbolic of the time of the pandemic, and readers are encouraged to search the news regarding this event. Also, the news was also featured on “Fashionsnap.com”.
According to LVMH’s third-quarter earning report, the only area with positive growth was the Asian region LVMH Q3 Revenue Report: LVMH’s financial reports are always very illuminating when looking at macro trends. “LVMH 2020 Q3 Revenue Report”. The region accounted for 41% of the company’s total sales, of which Japan accounted for 7%. As for Japanese companies, TOKYO BASE, which had been opening more stores in China before the pandemic, seems to be increasing its sales there despite the damage caused by the pandemic TOKYO BASE’s IR information, monthly sales report mentions on the revenue contribution of stores in China.
As a result of restrictions imposed by governments on cross-border travels, the strength of the Chinese market, which had always been considered strong, became indisputably clear. This year, Alibaba’s daily sales during the much-talked-about annual “Singles’ Day Event” on November 11th increased by more than 80% from the previous year to 498.2 billion yuan (about $74.1 billion). While there is no simple fair comparison between luxury brands and Alibaba, which sells goods including consumer goods, not only fashion products, however, this figure represents LVMH’s annual sales for 2019 of €5.36 billion in a single day. According to CNBC, the second-largest e-commerce platform, JD (Jingdong), had sales of about $40.97 billion. This is more than the combined annual sales of the 2nd and the 3rd luxury capitals, Kering and Richemont: “Alibaba, JD set new records to rack up record $115 billion of sales on Singles Day as regulations loom (CNBC)”.
According to a report by Tianwei Zhang published on WWD.COM on December 21, 2020, most of the audience for Digital Fashion Week came from China. The live-streaming of Prada’s collection, a collaboration between Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada that sounds controversial to some of the industry insiders, garnered more than 40 million viewers in China. In the end, most of the positive news flowed into fashion during the last year was due to the recovering economy in China.
DIGITIZATION AND GLOBALIZATION: THE THEME ON INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURING
The international fashion industry was in a state of pandemic turmoil, but mergers and acquisitions were aggressive, and the landscape of the contemporary fashion stage, which emerged between the 1990s and 2000, is changing considerably. Dries Van Noten, a major role of the Antwerp Six movement, was acquired by the Puig Group, while Ann Demeulemeester is acquired by Claudio Antonioli, a co-founder of the New Guards Group which also owns AMBUSH and OFF-WHITE. In addition, Ami has sold its shares to Sequoia Capital China this year. Among these news industry shakeups, the most important to put the big picture in perspective was the acquisition of Tiffany by LVMH and the investment in Farfetch by the Richemont Group, Artemis, and Alibaba.Artemis is the asset management company of François-Henri Pinault, the owner of Kering. “Groupe Artemis”. These two topics are emblematic of the recent M&A theme of “DIGITIZATION AND GLOBALIZATION”.
The first, the acquisition of Tiffany & Co. by LVMH, initially drew attention only because it was the largest acquisition in the history of the luxury sector, but it implied that Tiffany, whose sales are mostly in the U.S. market, needed to take its global strategy to the next level by digitizing and tuning it to each region in order to grow further overseas.
The second news regarding Farfetch was greeted with surprise by some as the two competitors, Richemont and François-Henri Pinault, owner of Kering, decided to invest in Farfetch at the same time. In fact, Farfetch has previously received funding in the past from Tencent and JD, competitors of Alibaba.
Farfetch is transforming itself from a mere e-commerce platform to a gateway-like infrastructure that connects fashion brands with emerging markets. There are still many retailers and brands around the world that have not yet gone digital. Many retailers and brands want to attract traffic from all over the world to sell their products with minimal damage to their brand value, and Farfetch is one of the most powerful platforms in this context The numbers don’t lie. Farfetch is still in the process of growth. Readers can check out Farfetch’s Financial Report to see their situation: “Finaincial Report”. The entire industry has been hit hard by the downturn in business performance caused by the Covid-19, and digitalization, which had been put on the back burner, is now underway everywhere. In this circumstance, large conglomerate corporations that are normally competitors with each other are working together to create the infrastructure that connects retailers, brands, and consumers across national borders, symbolizing that “Digitalization and Globalization” is an urgent theme of this era. At the beginning of the pandemic, keywords such as the end of globalism were bandied about, but as it turns out, globalism has only taken on a new form.
INDUSTRY RESTRUCTURING DRIVEN BY “ESG AND SDGS”
Industry restructuring based on the theme of “Digitalization and Globalization” is expected to continue, but now a new theme may be added to this trend. The topics are Sustainability, ESG (Environment Society Governance), and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that have become hot topics in the past two to three years.
On January 20, 2021, in the United States, the four-year Trump administration will end, and the Biden administration will take office. With the SDGs-ESG-conscious Democrats holding the majority in the House and Senate, this year will be the time of rapid rule-making on environmental policies and further investment in related industries. The United States, with its overwhelming economic and political power, and its influence on the West, is a country to watch.
The keywords such as sustainability, ESG, and SDGs are often viewed coldly, as issues of environmental protection and corporate ethics based on “too-woke” mindset. And when it comes to environmental policy, the tone in Japan and around the world tends to incline to extreme anti-capitalism, de-consumption and de-growth. However, we believe this perspective is too naïve.
“Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what you have in your portfolio.” is the word of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a former hedge fund options trader and Lebanese writer/scientist who is famous for his prediction of the Lehman Brothers Crisis. In the world of capitalism, when a new story is created in society, there is always a huge flow of capital behind the words. History has proven this to be true.Taleb’s book, “Skin in the Game” (2017), is a good read to grasp this context..
The new industrial movement is not an anti-capitalist theme, but rather a new story of capitalism trying to shake up existing industries and change the balance of power within the industry. As stricter rules are created, many existing brands and companies will be forced to adapt to the new rules, then those cannot adopt may be screened out. Emerging countries in particular will have a hard time adapting. Brands, manufacturers, and factories will be under-valued because of their lack of ESG compliance. Even if they have proven brand value now, and they may become acquisition targets for large companies that were quick to implement ESG measures. See Fashion Revolution for a general overview of what organizations exist today: “FASHION REVOLUTION KEY ORGANIZATION LIST”..
It is said that the full impact of the damage caused by the pandemic will come in 2021. Just as lagging digitization and the speed of globalization have become keywords for the past M&A success, sustainability, ESG, and SDGs are likely to become the new themes for industry restructuring that will surround companies and brands. While the framework for sustainability rules is being developed by European and the U.S. governments, as well as by large corporations, there may be new startups and creations that take advantage of these stricter rules to grow. Many of these companies will also become active acquisition targets for CSR and other reasons. Fashion and Sustainability: Understanding Luxury Fashion in a Changing World”, an endowed course by Kering at the London College of Fashion, is an interesting online course. It is an interesting online course that provides a bird’s eye view of what mainstream fashion is now promoting about sustainability: FUTURELEARN.COM.
DIVERSITY IN SOCIETY AND DIVERSITY OF CREATION
Like sustainability, the topic of diversity has been set aside by political powers around the world during the Trump administration. As a result of being left out of the centre of power, “diversity” has paradoxically become a symbol of anti-authority, and has become even more strongly supported by the liberal masses.
Fashion, which draws its creativity from the counterculture, was quick to respond to this social trend. Instead of Western European and American culture, the fashion industry has been drawing on the youth culture of Eastern European countries and Asia, which had not received much attention in the past, to create diverse creations in the mainstream. In the past few years, the fashion industry has also been under fire for its corporate advertisements and other topics that are against diversity. Nowadays, large corporations are avoiding the risk of flames and showing consideration for political correctness.
It is possible that this trend will change in the process of a power shift toward liberal blue government in the United States. As the term “diversity” loses its anti-power connotations, instead, it becomes a mainstream theme closely linked to political power. It is predicted that diversity will shift from an “attitude toward society” to a “rule of society”. The current situation, where even superficial measures have been overlooked by the public as long as they have an anti-Trump and anti-authority attitude, will be closely watched in the future, and many companies may be required to move with caution.
What will happen to the flow of fashion and its creation in the future? As new rules and customs emerge in society, mainstream fashion expression, including luxury, may become bland and safe. In creations, we may see more linear expressions aimed directly at consumers in emerging markets. However, for independent creators and start-ups, this trend could be a great opportunity.
Because people instinctively seek out things and cultures that are different from the mainstream. Fashion is not just made to satisfy envy of mainstream status in society or the desire to catch up with trends. It is also a reflection of the human instinct to be original, to be oneself and not someone else.
Currently, the industry is in the process of power centralization of industries by big conglomerates and standardization, on the other hand, it is the privilege of small organizations to be able to hack social and industry conventions, and to carry out activities that large organizations cannot do, such as subterfuge. The theme of this era will be “If there is a policy at the top, there is a countermeasure at the bottom” Originaly this is from Chinese modern proverb “上有政策、下有対策”, which illustrates the social hack skill of Chinese citizens. We are now just around the corner of transition.